Easter Treat Ideas: Super Simple and Gluten Free!

Ahh….Easter Sunday in the 70’s. Those were the days…Easter bonnets and dresses bought (or made) just for the big day — my whole family dressed in their finest duds. Even before church, my Dad would take home movies of us getting into our Easter baskets and devouring Peep after Peep, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs & jellybeans galore, without my Mom ever saying “That’s enough candy!” (That’s me on the right.)

I can’t imagine letting my own kids get so sugared-up before church (for my own sanity) and I give my daughters a fraction of the candy my parents gave me for Easter, yet I still don’t see a problem with letting kids be kids and enjoying sugary treats once in a while. My family eats quite healthy most of the time, we get plenty of exercise, we take care of our teeth and we aren’t couch potatoes — in fact, we don’t even own one video game!  Therefore, we don’t feel the least bit guilty indulging in making and eating these three yummy Easter treats together. And you shouldn’t either!  🙂

We call our first treat idea “Muddy Bunnies“. We’ve all seen chocolate-dipped Peeps,
but we thought we’d take it a little further and have them sit in the middle of a pile of springtime mud (peanut clusters). All you do for this is melt chocolate in the microwave, mix in peanuts and drop clusters onto wax paper over a cookie sheet. Arrange the Peeps bunny in the middle and spoon some more chocolate around his bottom to make him part of the peanut cluster. Then add sprinkles and set the cookie sheet in the freezer to harden. We also thought they looked cute sitting in these cupcake liners:

Our second idea we wanted to try was “Chocolate Peeps Eggshells“, which turned out to be our favorite. I originally saw the idea for chocolate ice cream shells here but I have no idea why it took me so long to try it. It was so easy! (Feel free to read that article for more details, but I simplified the process a lot, which I will explain below…)

To make these Chocolate Peeps Eggshells, you will need:
•  Melting chocolate
•  Peeps chicks
•  G-free sprinkles or nonpariels
•  Small balloons
•  Waxed paper

The first thing you do is to blow up & tie your balloons, rinse them with water, dry them and set aside. (We used water balloons without any problems, but I have read that a few other people have had issues with these and recommend small, regular balloons instead. It’s up to you.) Next, clear an area in your freezer to fit a small cookie sheet, then cover that cookie sheet with wax paper and set it back on your counter.

In a small-to-medium sized microwaveable bowl (depending on how many of these you’re going to make) melt your chocolate. We aren’t big fans of white chocolate so we used milk chocolate melting disks. Clearly, white chocolate would make a more realistic-looking eggshell, if that is what you are after. We were just after taste! 🙂 Either way, you’ll want
the melted chocolate to be a few inches deep so that you can cover your balloons up
high enough.

Once your chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, just dip each balloon in, tilting it around to cover the sides until you like how it looks. Then you just set it upright on the wax paper and toss some sprinkles on it. After they’re all dipped and sprinkled, just pop the cookie sheet into the freezer for a few minutes until they harden all the way. They will look something like this:

Then you can let your kids have fun popping the balloons! Below is Lindsey (with Morgan covering her ears) just before her needle popped the balloon…

After it’s popped, you will find the shriveled up balloon in the bottom of the chocolate shell. Carefully peel the balloon away from the chocolate and you’ll be left with shells like this:

Then all you do is pop a Peeps chick inside for your finished product. Another idea is to make these into birds’ nests by adding coconut underneath the chick.

The third idea is very simple as well. We call these “Bunny Trail Pops” and we just felt like doing something different than our usual sprinkled chocolate marshmallows. We popped a stick into each marshmallow, dipped the bottom of it in chocolate, set it on waxed paper and stuck bunny candies into it, evenly with one of each color. Again, set it in the freezer to harden. These don’t even need sticks, and you can experiment with any type of g-free Easter candies…

After they have all hardened in the freezer, all of these treats can be kept in airtight containers in your fridge til they’re gone — which won’t be long!    🙂  Enjoy!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Psssst:  Have you seen the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page yet?
For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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Mini peanut butter cups for your gluten-free Valentine!

IMG_6158I was looking for something different — yet easy — to make my g-free girls for Valentine’s Day week….I ended up looking no further than one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes: this one in particular.

To make these perfect, kid-size peanut butter cups, you just preheat your oven to
400 degrees, then use this simple cookie recipe:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Mix 3 ingredients together, and press cookie dough into greased mini cupcake tin openings. Be sure to press it evenly inside each opening — the same thickness on the bottom as it is along the sides—to ensure even baking, leaving the middle hollowed out for filling later on… The dough should come up and around the edges of each opening, which is where you add fork marks. Then you pop them into the oven and bake for about 9 minutes (watching them so they don’t burn around the top edges)  After they are cooled, twist the edges until they loosen and then they should pop right out, nice and sturdy.

IMG_6174For filling, I just used Pillsbury Valentine’s Funfetti frosting, piped through the corner of a plastic bag. Obviously chocolate frosting would be another great combination to go with peanut butter —or Nutella, a Hershey’s kiss, etc. No matter how you fill them or top them, they are the perfect kid-size peanut butter cups!  Try them with Sunbutter, too…

Enjoy!

5 ways to make your g-free kid feel like a superstar

When children are first diagnosed with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, their lives will change. So will yours as a parent. That is inevitable. Food is such a huge part of our lives, and being on a g-free diet means that you can no longer just go to any restaurant or party or social occasion without first planning ahead. Spontaneity may take a back seat for a while, but just until you learn the ropes and gain confidence.

The great part, though, is that how you view those changes is entirely up to you. You can either act like you feel sorry for your child and talk incessantly to anyone who will listen about how hard the diet is and how expensive the food is — or, you can make your child feel lucky and blessed to have been diagnosed, and show gratitude for all of the awesome choices of g-free foods that are now available. The #1 thing you can do for your child, right from the beginning, is to introduce them to their new best friend: a positive attitude. It is absolutely essential. If you haven’t shown one yourself, forgive yourself and just move on to helping boost your child’s morale and feelings about being g-free.

Here are some great ways to help your g-free kid feel like a superstar:

Start a “#1 Supporter” contest. Enlist all of your child’s supporters to help. Have them read about how vital they are to your child and start a contest to see who can win the #1 Supporter prize (whatever you deem the prize to be: a hand-painted t-shirt, a certificate, blue ribbon
or whatever). This gives supporters the chance — and extra incentive — to show how much they care by the positive words that they use around your child, and by
the actions that they take, like: writing the child a letter of encouragement, buying them a g-free treat, taking them out to dinner at a restaurant with a gluten-free menu, making them a gluten-free dish (with your assistance)
and other ideas listed at the bottom of this article. Through this contest your child will feel so loved and cherished. Set a time limit on the contest (a month maybe?) and then encourage everyone to keep the support coming even after it’s over!

Try to find gluten-free replacements for all of their old favorite foods and celebrate each new discovery. I honestly can’t think of one type of food that we haven’t yet found a g-free version of. (Here are some examples: To replace Cheezits, try Wellaby’s Mini Cheddar Crackers; to replace fish crackers, try Schar’s Cheese Bites; to replace chicken nuggets, try Ian’s brand or Wegmans’ version if you are in the NE; to replace pizza crusts & breadsticks, try Chebe mixes; to recreate old favorite baked goods, substitute regular flour with a GF all-purpose flour like Jules.) With each success, celebrate with your child by giving a loud “woo-hoo!” and high fives (or however you want to express yourselves) and make sure you include the rest of the family in the celebration, too.
It feels so good for kids to know that their whole family cares about them and is happy for their successes — plus, their acceptance of the diet
will grow, knowing there are great-tasting GF alternatives to old favorites.

Let them be included in the g-free kids online photo album. Many kids feel like they’re the only ones in the world on the g-free diet — so let them know they’re not!  They will take pride in seeing their own face in the album, knowing that they are part of an ever-growing group of g-free kids from around the world. Imagine their face lighting up as they look around at all of the other happy faces, see where everyone is from and read about what they enjoy doing. They will begin to feel a sense of camaraderie and kinship with other kids who eat the same way they do and will feel included in something special.

Arrange to have your child be “star of the day” at school. Make plans with your child’s teacher for a special day of learning in his or her classroom. If your child is very young, bring in a children’s book to read to the class. If your child would rather do it solo, send a book in for your teacher (or your child if they’re able) to read aloud. If you can be present, allow time for Q&A afterwards, emphasizing how lucky your child is to be diagnosed, how it isn’t contagious, how it differs from an allergy (if applicable), and that
his or her foods taste great, too. If your child is older (and comfortable with the idea) let him field the questions himself — as long as you know he is relatively prepared. Then let the class enjoy whatever delicious GF treat (giant cookie cake, cupcakes, brownies, etc.) you made and sent in, so that they can see how good your child’s food tastes, too. Your child will enjoy being the center of attention that day, and will feel good knowing that his peers now better understand and accept his diet.

Put your g-free kid front and center in a photo frame. Here is a printable frame that I designed for your g-free kid. You can download, print it and tape your child’s 4×6″ photo from behind. Buy one of those inexpensive clear, plastic magnetic document holders for your fridge and put your child’s photo in the middle. Every time he sees it, the words on the frame — “gluten-free is good for me” … “I’m a g-free kid” … “proud to be gluten-free” — will start to stick with him and grow his sense of pride. Plus it’ll remind everyone to be careful to avoid cross-contamination as well. Hope you and your child enjoy it!

. . . . . . . . . .

Before I close, let me just say that, as a parent, I am not one to spoil my children or let them act as if they are the center of the universe. But, if your child is struggling with being gluten-free or is newly diagnosed, I think it’s a fine time to boost up their self-esteem and do whatever you can to help them feel better about themselves. These 5 ideas should go a long way in helping your g-free kid gain confidence and begin to embrace the gluten-free diet and the changes that come along with it.

Have you tried any of these ideas already?  What effect did they have on your child?
Feel free to comment below about any of these ideas and add more of your own for other families as well. Thanks!

Easter Treat Ideas: Super Simple and Gluten Free!

Ahh….Easter Sunday in the 70’s. Those were the days…Easter bonnets and dresses bought (or made) just for the big day — my whole family dressed in their finest duds. Even before church, my Dad would take home movies of us getting into our Easter baskets and devouring Peep after Peep, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs & jellybeans galore, without my Mom ever saying “That’s enough candy!” (That’s me on the right.) I can’t imagine letting my own kids get so sugared-up before church (for my own sanity) and I give my daughters a fraction of the candy my parents gave me for Easter, yet I still don’t see a problem with letting kids be kids and enjoying sugary treats once in a while. My family eats quite healthy most of the time, we get plenty of exercise, we take care of our teeth and we aren’t couch potatoes. Therefore, we don’t feel the least bit guilty indulging in making and eating these three yummy Easter treats together. And you shouldn’t either!  🙂 We call our first treat idea “Muddy Bunnies“. We’ve all seen chocolate-dipped Peeps, but we thought we’d take it a little further and have them sit in the middle of a pile of springtime mud (peanut clusters). All you do for this is melt chocolate in the microwave, mix in peanuts and drop clusters onto wax paper over a cookie sheet. Arrange the Peeps bunny in the middle and spoon some more chocolate around his bottom to make him part of the peanut cluster. Then add sprinkles and set the cookie sheet in the freezer to harden. We also thought they looked cute sitting in these cupcake liners: Our second idea we wanted to try was “Chocolate Peeps Eggshells“, which turned out to be our favorite. I originally saw the idea for chocolate ice cream shells here but I have no idea why it took me so long to try it. It was so easy! (Feel free to read that article for more details, but I simplified the process a lot, which I will explain below…)

To make these Chocolate Peeps Eggshells, you will need:
•  Melting chocolate
•  Peeps chicks
•  G-free sprinkles or nonpariels
•  Small balloons
•  Waxed paper

The first thing you do is to blow up & tie your balloons, rinse them with water, dry them and set aside. (We used water balloons without any problems, but I have read that a few other people have had issues with these and recommend small, regular balloons instead. It’s up to you.) Next, clear an area in your freezer to fit a small cookie sheet, then cover that cookie sheet with wax paper and set it back on your counter. In a small-to-medium sized microwaveable bowl (depending on how many of these you’re going to make) melt your chocolate. We aren’t big fans of white chocolate so we used milk chocolate melting disks. Clearly, white chocolate would make a more realistic-looking eggshell, if that is what you are after. We were just after taste! 🙂 Either way, you’ll want the melted chocolate to be a few inches deep so that you can cover your balloons up high enough. Once your chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, just dip each balloon in, tilting it around to cover the sides until you like how it looks. Then you just set it upright on the wax paper and toss some sprinkles on it. After they’re all dipped and sprinkled, just pop the cookie sheet into the freezer for a few minutes until they harden all the way. They will look something like this:

Then you can let your kids have fun popping the balloons! Below is Lindsey (with Morgan covering her ears) just before her needle popped the balloon… After it’s popped, you will find the shriveled up balloon in the bottom of the chocolate shell. Carefully peel the balloon away from the chocolate and you’ll be left with shells like this: Then all you do is pop a Peeps chick inside for your finished product. Another idea is to make these into birds’ nests by adding coconut underneath the chick. The third idea is very simple as well. We call these “Bunny Trail Pops” and we just felt like doing something different than our usual sprinkled chocolate marshmallows. We popped a stick into each marshmallow, dipped the bottom of it in chocolate, set it on waxed paper and stuck bunny candies into it, evenly with one of each color. Again, set it in the freezer to harden. These don’t even need sticks, and you can experiment with any type of g-free Easter candies… After they have all hardened in the freezer, all of these treats can be kept in airtight containers in your fridge til they’re gone — which won’t be long!    🙂  Enjoy!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Psssst:  Have you seen the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page yet? For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Gluten-free Valentine’s Day cards, plus a mini kid-size giveaway!

Hello!  I normally won’t be posting every day like this but I have a few more things I want to get out before Valentine’s Day, and wanted to give you a few days to enjoy them…

G-free V-day cards!
My favorite site for coloring pages and cards is Activity Village. They’ve got everything imaginable except for gluten-free cards (in fact, I couldn’t find any anywhere) so what else could I do but create my own?  I pulled out my old marker pad and pens and went old-school for this post, drawing everything by hand. (I had to get off the computer for a few hours!)  🙂  So what I came up with is 4 little Valentine’s Day cards (with the help of dear ol’ Mom who helped me come up with some wording) — made especially for all the g-free kids out there. You can download the PDF here: 4VcardsHR, then print out copies of it for your kids to color, glue onto colored construction paper and give out for Valentines — or just hang in their room or on the fridge. Please let me know how your children enjoy these…I would love to hear what they did with their cards! (*Please note: the below preview won’t print out large enough — click on the blue link four lines above this for the printable PDF).

My first mini kid-size giveaway… I have a bunch of stuff like this that I’ll be giving away once in a while, just for kids. How often do your kids get things in the mail?  If yours are like mine: not often enough. These giveaways are just meant to give your g-free kid a little excitement by receiving a little surprise in a snail-mail envelope, along with a little note from a famous author (okay, maybe an unknown author)…  😉

If you’d like your child to receive one of these coin purses in the mail, please comment below with your favorite thing about this website and/or something you’d like to see here in the future. I’ve got 3 of both styles, so 6 winners will be randomly chosen by midnight tomorrow (Sunday, Feb. 12th). At that point winners will need to send me their mailing addresses and I’ll send them out. Stay tuned…

Next up are some wiggly, jiggly jello ideas for Valentine’s Day. Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

Simple ideas for your special, little gluten-free Valentine

Valentine’s Day brings plenty of opportunities to make your g-free kid feel extra loved — as well as show love to others — around the clock. A little creativity, some thoughtfulness, a cookie cutter and a few other supplies can go a long way in making your g-free kid feel like a very special Valentine by the end of next week…

Here are some quick ways we make things seem “Valentinesy” (as we say) for the weeks surrounding the big day:

FOR THEM:  One of our “go-to” treats — for any occasion — is chocolate dipped marshmallow pops. These couldn’t be easier and I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love them. We make and send them in to almost every class party and my girls always say they were a hit. All you have to do is stick a skewer into each marshmallow, dip them in melted chocolate, add sprinkles, put on wax paper and set in the freezer. Just change up the sprinkles depending on the holiday and they are a festive addition to any occasion.

With your handy-dandy cookie cutter, make heart shaped pizzas. For these we just rolled out part of the dough and cut them out, then topped them individually. Or even easier — just make regular pizzas and use a cookie cutter after it’s cooled. Moms like me are always happy to eat the leftover scraps!  🙂

FOR OTHERS:  Make simple peanut clusters. Just fill cookie cutters up partway (depending on how thick you want them) with melted chocolate mixed with peanuts, decorate with sprinkles if you’d like, then let them set in the freezer for a while before you pop them right out.

Or let your kids make free-form peanut clusters, too!

FOR FUN:  Remember and repeat — life is not all about food. When each upcoming holiday nears, I let my daughters become designers extraordinaire… Decorations come up from the basement and I let them decorate this shelf in our living room however they want.

This is Lindsey’s most recent creation (she was sick that day and Morgan was somewhere else, so she was even more excited to do this one solo). Putting a bunch of decorations in one spot has a lot more impact than sprinkling them around the house, and my kids are free to revisit and rearrange as they see fit.

So many ideas, so little time… What are some simple things you let your g-free kid do for Valentines Day?  Do tell!  🙂

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

*Also, please stay tuned for 2 special things just for kids:  4 Valentines Day cards for g-free kids to color (as soon as I finish drawing them!) and a mini kids-size giveaway. Should be up in a day or two… thanks!

5 ways to make your gluten-free kid feel like a superstar

When children are first diagnosed with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, their lives will change. So will yours as a parent. That is inevitable. Food is such a huge part of our lives, and being on a g-free diet means that you can no longer just go to any restaurant or party or social occasion without first planning ahead. Spontaneity may take a back seat for a while, but just until you learn the ropes and gain confidence.

The great part, though, is that how you view those changes is entirely up to you. You can either act like you feel sorry for your child and talk incessantly to anyone who will listen about how hard the diet is and how expensive the food is — or, you can make your child feel lucky and blessed to have been diagnosed, and show gratitude for all of the awesome choices of g-free foods that are now available. The #1 thing you can do for your child, right from the beginning, is to introduce them to their new best friend: a positive attitude. It is absolutely essential. If you haven’t shown one yourself, forgive yourself and just move on to helping boost your child’s morale and feelings about being g-free.

Here are some great ways to help your g-free kid feel like a superstar:

Start a “#1 Supporter” contest. Enlist all of your child’s supporters to help. Have them read about how vital they are to your child and start a contest to see who can win the #1 Supporter prize (whatever you deem the prize to be: a hand-painted t-shirt, a certificate, blue ribbon
or whatever). This gives supporters the chance — and extra incentive — to show how much they care by the positive words that they use around your child, and by
the actions that they take, like: writing the child a letter of encouragement, buying them a g-free treat, taking them out to dinner at a restaurant with a gluten-free menu, making them a gluten-free dish (with your assistance)
and other ideas listed in this article. Through this contest your child will feel so loved and cherished. Set a time limit on the contest (a month maybe?) and then encourage everyone to keep the support coming even after it’s over!

Try to find gluten-free replacements for all of their old favorite foods and celebrate each new discovery. I honestly can’t think of one type of food that we haven’t yet found a g-free version of. (Here are some examples: To replace Cheezits, try Wellaby’s Mini Cheddar Crackers; to replace fish crackers, try Schar’s Cheese Bites; to replace chicken nuggets, try Ian’s brand or Wegmans’ version if you are in the NE; to replace pizza crusts & breadsticks, try Chebe mixes; to recreate old favorite baked goods, substitute regular flour with a GF all-purpose flour like Jules.) With each success, celebrate with your child by giving a loud “woo-hoo!” and high fives (or however you want to express yourselves) and make sure you include the rest of the family in the celebration, too.
It feels so good for kids to know that their whole family cares about them and is happy for their successes — plus, their acceptance of the diet
will grow, knowing there are great-tasting GF alternatives to old favorites.

Let them be included in the g-free kids online photo album. Many kids feel like they’re the only ones in the world on the g-free diet — so let them know they’re not!  They will take pride in seeing their own face in the album, knowing that they are part of an ever-growing group of g-free kids from around the world. Imagine their face lighting up as they look around at all of the other happy faces, see where everyone is from and read about what they enjoy doing. They will begin to feel a sense of camaraderie and kinship with other kids who eat the same way they do and will feel included in something special.

Arrange to have your child be “star of the day” at school. Make plans with your child’s teacher for a special day of learning in his or her classroom. If your child is very young, bring in a children’s book to read to the class. If your child would rather do it solo, send a book in for your teacher (or your child if they are able) to read aloud. If you can be present, allow time for Q&A afterwards, emphasizing how lucky your child is to be diagnosed, how it isn’t contagious, how it differs from an allergy (if applicable), and that
his or her foods taste great, too. If your child is older (and comfortable with the idea) let him field the questions himself — as long as you know he is relatively prepared. Then let the class enjoy whatever delicious GF treat (giant cookie cake, cupcakes, brownies, etc.) you made and sent in, so that they can see how good your child’s food tastes, too. Your child will enjoy being the center of attention that day, and will feel good knowing that his peers now better understand and accept his diet.

Put your g-free kid front and center in a photo frame. Here is a printable frame that I designed for your g-free kid. You can download, print it and tape your child’s 4×6″ photo from behind. Buy one of those inexpensive clear, plastic magnetic document holders for your fridge and put your child’s photo in the middle. Every time he sees it, the words on the frame — “gluten-free is good for me” … “I’m a g-free kid” … “proud to be gluten-free” — will start to stick with him and grow his sense of pride. Plus it’ll remind everyone to be careful to avoid cross-contamination as well. Hope you and your child enjoy it!

. . . . . . . . . .

Before I close, let me just say that, as a parent, I am not one to spoil my children or let them act as if they are the center of the universe. But, if your child is struggling with being gluten-free or is newly diagnosed, I think it’s a fine time to boost up their self-esteem and do whatever you can to help them feel better about themselves. These 5 ideas should go a long way in helping your g-free kid gain confidence and begin to embrace the gluten-free diet and the changes that come along with it.

Have you tried any of these ideas already?  What effect did they have on your child?
Feel free to comment below about any of these ideas and add more of your own for other families as well. Thanks!